And here we go again…..
To anyone reading this, I would like to make one aspect of my writings very clear- I am inherently an optimist, it’s just that when I talk about issues such as these, it makes sense to point out the dark side to issues rather than only address the good side, as I am sure, we are all well aware of them already.
Nationalism, in my opinion, has always been a good thing. It bolsters pride in one’s country and provides a common ground for citizens to stand in where they can all relate to one another, and to their government. However, the sad reality is, our psychological tendencies dictate that we are more prone to deem something as more of a risk when the severity of the issue is catastrophic, even if that means another issue is bigger in terms of severity, but is acute. And so following this chain of thought, nationalism has been branded with a mark of violence and suffering following a handful of severe cases that threatened the world to no small degree.
Whether I think if nationalism is bad or not is dependent on the form and function upon which it is based. If nationalism inspires the masses to seek better lifestyle and live as exemplary citizens because they want to, and not because they are forced to do so, nationalism, in itself, can be a beautiful thing. All countries seek this feeling in their citizens, all leaders seek to inspire the masses, albeit, there are more than one way to do so. For me when I can ever truly deem nationalism as a hindrance, keeping in mind that I have a limited perspective on any issue that may confront me as there are always two sides to every coin, is when nationalism is forcefully employed. The chain in my perspective progresses like this. A leader is elected, the leader instills fear in the masses by providing a scapegoat, a common enemy, the masses unite under the banner of fear and pledge complete and blind loyalty to the leader. In such cases, nationalism, that is based on Xenophobia, fear and hatred, is anything but what we should look up to, and rather, is a form that we must seek to bury deep within the inaccessible reaches of any human.
And let’s not ever think that nationalism inspired in a ‘good’ way can never go awry. When patriotism overflows and blinds one to perspectives from other cultures and nations, one can only say that it is hardly the right attitude to have. Just as patriotism is essential to the sustenance of a country, cultural diversity and perspectives are essential to the governance of a country.
A question that has come up time and time again during this unit is the way in which we can or should go about confronting fundamentalism and extremism. And to me, the answer comes down to awareness.
When it comes to fundamentalism and extremism, the thing that bothers me the most is the way the media handles it. When first addressed, an issue is blown out of proportion to the point where everyone talks about it vigorously. Afterwards, the backlash begins. Soon, when people realize that the entire story was made out to be more extreme than it was, all of a sudden it becomes a taboo to talk about the topic at all. And the moment words like, “racism” and “intolerance” are brought into the debates, it seems no matter how informed one’s opinion is, if it is in the least bit negative or condescending towards the issue, the debate is already lost. Very seldom have I seen reports that just present the facts and leave it at that.
In this era of information where ratings dictate which channel stays relevant and which one falls, it becomes almost mandatory to manipulate data and information. And that is the very point where the problem lies. By catering to two extremes, the media gets away without providing any real chance for us to form opinions at all. The choices shown are two polarizing ends of the spectrum, a ‘for’ or ‘against’ battle. But the truth is, confronting ideologies is much simpler than that. It only takes a brief reflection on the events and a swift cross-examination to one’s own moral compass, beliefs and ideologies to form an opinion that can provide the way in between fear and rage, and avoidance and extreme ‘tolerance’.
So for me the answer is this. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but that also means that others are entitled to theirs as well. In order to gain a full understanding of such multifaceted issues, discussions must be encouraged. But it has to be a discussion where everyone listens to each other without trying to just condemn each other for their views or come off as condescending to the opposing arguments. It has to be a debate where people listen and not just hear.